How to Help Bridge the Gap Between Management and IT
By Elizabeth Supica
Imagine a newly married couple, neither of which speak each other’s language. They do their best to understand one another, but a lack of meaningful and understandable communication will most likely doom the union from the start.
Throughout many companies, the relationship between the IT department and executive leadership is similar. The familiar phrase “it was a match made in heaven” rarely, if ever, applies.
Through a survey of 150 IT departments at mid-sized companies, the IT Leadership Exchange found that 90 percent of CIOs expect that the IT department will be misaligned with business needs in an economic recovery, and more than half feel that this will threaten the business’s long-term competitiveness.
Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to bridge the often troublesome gap between IT and executives. Cooperation and understanding of each others needs can go a long way.
1) Align Business Goals with IT Methodology and Projects.
In practice, every enterprise has its own distinct sets of business and IT goals. Priorities within these sets will differ depending on a variety of internal and external factors such as company size, market position, degree of IT dependency, industry, and geography.
In today’s complex business world, strategic planning based on the alignment of business goals and IT is crucial to success.
Business discussions should focus on strategic, relationship-related matters including clearly outlining IT and business partner roles, business unit goals, and potential future projects.
It is important that management begin with a clear view its business goals and exactly how IT can, and will, contribute to the needs of the business.
Business leaders need to be certain that every IT department member understands and can articulate the needs and goals of the business first, then design IT systems and projects only the extent that they will help achieve these goals.
2) Determine Project Hierarchy and Stick to it.
If there is one phrase that those in IT hear most frequently, it is “I need this right away!” Every request from the organization seems to be as urgent as the last – even if the request is complete nonsense from a technological standpoint.
Oftentimes executives are under the impression that IT works only for them. They sometimes lose sight of the fact that the IT department serves hundreds or thousands of others on a daily basis.
Of course problems and issues will arise that require emergency status, but those that are not critical and, more importantly, do not bring value to the organization should be avoided.
Every proposed project should result in increased sales, efficiency, and contribute in a meaningful way to the business. When business goals are aligned properly, the IT department has a much easier job in deciding how to divvy up valuable resources. A written hierarchy for IT is crucial to keep everyone on the same page.
3) Know (and teach) the Difference Between “Wants” and “Needs”
Most senior managers lack a solid understanding of technology. They understand its importance but are not necessarily sure about how it all works. This is an area where IT can help by making sure that management understands the difference between an IT “need” and a “want”.
It is the responsibility of IT personnel to convey what can and cannot be done easily from a technological standpoint. Just because someone wants something to work a certain way does not mean it can easily be accomplished. Wants can, and probably should, turn into needs as the business evolves.
4) Work to Streamline Internal Processes
Management guru Peter Drucker teaches that process improvements can transform business and lead to innovation. Drucker notes that this is “the change that creates a new dimension of performance” for organizations.
Ultimately, an IT department is judged on its productivity, efficiency, and the manner in which it serves individuals both inside and outside the organization.
When IT productivity increases, so does the productivity of those it serves. Routine analysis of IT operations will routinely uncover potential areas for improvement. These might include: improved automation, software and security upgrades, status request times, etc.
5) Make Accountability a Key Factor
IT accountability comes into play in the areas of IT operations, cost management, service delivery, and projects. IT accountability is critical to achieve maximum business value from IT-related decisions.
Management executives need to make the IT leader fully aware that accountability is crucial to the success of the organization. Accountability should not happen only when things go wrong. Rather, IT needs to take ownership from the beginning.
The key to directing individuals and teams towards success is to clarify the organizational purpose from the outset.
Management can only expect accountability from IT after they have conveyed a clear direction and the performance measures and objectives that are the most important to the company and its vision. Poor IT performance can reflect as much on management as IT itself.
6) Delegate IT Tasks Whenever Possible
More often than not, executive management teams tend to view telecom cost-reduction as its number one priority for IT. In a tough economy, IT can feel even more heat as management looks to cut costs in every way possible.
One consistent problem that IT endures is that they have little time for tending to basic, but crucial, telecom issues. In fact, IT managers often cite telecom as their number one time-intensive area.
The key to effectively increasing IT efficiencies AND reducing costs at the same time can be as simple as delegating mundane tasks and telecom management of field locations to an outside firm that specializes in this area.
Handing off the variety of daily telecom issues to an expert frees up IT to concentrate on larger projects – the areas that contribute most to achieving business goals and growing the enterprise. An expert telecom outsourcing firm will not only help bridge the gap between IT and management, but also between field offices, accounting, and ancillary services departments.
TelCon Associates specializes in helping companies of all sizes reduce and manage telecom expenses through a variety of cost-reduction services. For more information, visit http://www.telconassociates.com